Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Lamest Duck in Town

Virginia is unique in that it doesn’t allow a sitting governor to run for reelection. So once they’re done with their gubernatorial gig, in recent cycles former governors have been tending to run for the U.S. Senate … with varying degrees of success.

Elected governor in 1989, Doug Wilder split with the Democratic Party and ran for the Senate as an Independent in a wild four-way race in 1994. About a month before Election Day, the mercurial Wilder suddenly withdrew and the incumbent, Chuck Robb, a former Democratic governor, himself, was reelected.

Robb then lost the next time out to George Allen, who took the seat from him in 2000. In 2006 Allen lost his bid for reelection to Sen. Jim Webb, who is enjoying his last month at that job. With the seat opening back up, this year, Allen thought he saw an opportunity for redemption, but it turned out Virginians had already had more than enough of him.

You can stick a fork in Allen's career as a politician who can raise money to run for office in Virginia; it's done.    

Over the last four years the senatorial races have matched the commonwealth‘s last four governors: Jim Gilmore lost to Mark Warner in 2008. This year Allen lost to Tim Kaine, who will be replacing Webb.

So, counting Webb’s rather surprising victory six years ago, with regard to the Senate, that’s a trend. Three statewide elections over six years is a winning streak and the next time up in 2014 isn’t looking so good for Republicans, either.

Put together with the fact that Barack Obama has carried Virginia twice, and it makes Bob McDonnell’s win in 2009 look like it was perhaps a fluke. It was the year of the Tea Party’s noisy emergence and the Democrats nominated a nice guy who proved to be an exceptionally weak candidate.

Given the most recent election results to consider, the Tea Party's influence in Virginia, and elsewhere, seems to be declining. And, like it or not, Virginia’s thought-to-be purple electorate is looking more bluish every day.

As a Republican governor going into his last year in office, no doubt, McDonnell must wonder about his future. His blatant campaigning to be Mitt Romney’s running mate this year left McDonnell looking more foolish than eager.

With the emergence of Ken Cuccinelli as the presumptive gubernatorial nominee for the GOP, instead of McDonnell’s man -- Bill, ah, what’s his name? -- Gov. McDonnell doesn’t even seem to be wielding much power within his own political party. And, running against the ever popular Warner in 2014 can’t look but so inviting to McDonnell.

How much influence McDonnell -- the lamest duck in town -- will have over the upcoming General Assembly session remains to be seen. With stubbornness being what it is, no one should be surprised to see more demonstrations in Capitol Square protesting his party's most controversial proposals. All of which will probably put the clumsy McDonnell in a bad light, again.

As far as the Flat-Earth-ers are concerned, they’ve got one of their stars, The Cooch, in place to carry their heavy, backward-looking brand of conservatism forth. With his various failed legal actions, supposedly done in the interests of all Virginians, he has become a partisan hero to those on the Tea Party side of the split within the Republican Party.

Which, speaking of political history in the Old Dominion, will bitterly divide the Virginia GOP, once again. Don't forget what Ollie North and Marshall Coleman did in 1994 to help reelect Robb. This fault line in the GOP has been there for decades. And, the way it looks now, there's not much this sitting governor can do to prevent the divide from widening again in 2013. He will probably even have to suck up some of the for it.


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